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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Tecumseh celebrates 100-years of community

by Sylene Argent

In May of 1921, the former Town of Tecumseh was officially incorporated, and community members were invited to celebrate 100-years of history, over the weekend, as part of a community-wide celebratory event.

  The celebration schedule kicked-off early Saturday morning, with a First Nations’ Sunrise Ceremony, which took place at Lakewood Park. The Tecumtha Ogitchada Society led the event, which brought together community members to offer prayers to mark and welcome the beginning of a new day and express appreciation and thanks for life and nature.

  “What a beautiful ceremony this morning,” Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said after taking part in the event. “It was a great way to start our weekend.”

  He said the activities were meant to celebrate the community. “There is something here for everyone,” McNamara said. “100-years only happens once in our lifetime. We thought it was a great opportunity.”

  A full schedule of events continued throughout the weekend, including a memorial walk; tours of the newly renovated municipal town hall, the OPP Station, Fire Hall, and Arena; and an agricultural Exhibit at the Sandwich South Historical Society on Saturday, in addition to try a sport challenge, historical sport exhibit, and firework display.

  On Sunday, a large-scale mural was unveiled at the Tecumseh Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 261). The mural honours the Canadian Armed Forces, the poppy, and the Town of Tecumseh’s first Mayor, Colonel Paul Poisson, who was elected after serving Canada in the first World War.

  Poisson served one term as Mayor, before moving on to represent Tecumseh in the Provincial Legislature.

  According to information on its website, the Town of Tecumseh’s first election was held December 4, 1922 with a Mayor and Council selected by the Town’s 350 electors.

  That first election, McNamara noted, took place 100-years ago.

  In 1999, as part of amalgamation, the former Town of Tecumseh, the former Village of St. Clair Beach, and the former Township of Sandwich South were merged into the new Town of Tecumseh.

  Other activities on Sunday included an open house and historical exhibit at the Tecumseh Area Historical Society, a community bike rally, and an event focusing on Truth and Reconciliation, which offered an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together in an effort to understand the past, rebuild trust and respectful relationships, and focus on bettering future generations in Canada.

  Event organizers wanted to use the milestone to interconnect with the Indigenous population through the celebration. Over the past year, Truth and Reconciliation is something Tecumseh has been working on, McNamara said.

  Also on Sunday, Tecumseh Fire Rescue Service hosted a Firefighter Combat Challenge at Fire Hall #2 on Walker Road. Here, crews from neighbouring municipalities, including firefighters from Essex Fire & Rescue’s Station # 2, took part in challenges that not only tested their physical prowess, but mental fortitude as well.

  Activities continued on Monday, with a musical celebration and Tecumtha Ogitchada Society First Nations Honour Guard, free recreational swim, and an open house at Ste-Anne’s Church.

  Touching on the Town of Tecumseh’s history, McNamara said a lot is owed to Chief Tecumseh, whom the Town was named after.

  “We owe a lot to him. He gave his life, actually, to this country. I don’t think he was appreciated as much as [he should have been],” McNamara said, noting residents understand a little bit of the history. Activities over the Tecumseh 100 celebration featured some of Chief Tecumseh’s relatives, who were eager to talk about Indigenous history, Truth and Reconciliation, and their ancestor’s courageous role during the War of 1812.

  Tecumseh and Major-General Isaac Brock, McNamara said, played a major role in the War of 1812, with Tecumseh masterminding the surrender of Fort Detroit.

  McNamara added the Town of Tecumseh wanted to use the centennial celebration be a part of Truth and Reconciliation.

  Patricia Shawnoo, of Anishinabek Nation of Kettle and Stony Point, also known as Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point, is a direct descendant of Tecumseh. She was one of the individuals who hosted the Sunrise Ceremony on Saturday morning and other Indigenous activities throughout the weekend.

  She said the significance of the Sunrise Ceremony was connecting and praying to the Creator. The ceremony acknowledges and provides thanks for the sunrise, medicine, and everything in creation. “We are offering our prayers, at the very first, before we begin everything.”

  The ceremony was an everyday way of life, which she said was interrupted by colonization.  She said there is a long way to go before Indigenous will celebrate Canada Day, what can be done is to enjoy the collective and work together to bring the understanding of why.

  Tecumseh, during the War of 1812, tried to unify the tribes to stand together and protect their efforts, she said. They went out and protected life. They had a vision to stand in unity to maintain their ceremonial, cultural way of life.

  The role of being Tecumseh’s descendent is a huge responsibility, she said. As a direct descendent, “We picked up that bundle…and now we are moving it,” Shawnoo said.

  Getting involved with the centennial celebration was about having the opportunity for individuals to come and talk to them and get back to some oral history and oral way of visiting.

  She noted Jerry Fontaine, who wrote about the Three Fires Confederacy in the book “Our Hearts are as One Fire” was onsite to greet individuals over the weekend.

  “To me, the Three Fires Confederacy is the one carrying those sacred bundles,” Shawnoo said.

  In talking about Truth and Reconciliation over the weekend, Shawnoo said the Tecumtha Ogitchada Society offered interactive activities with families, because, “We want them to know our culture is beautiful and is nothing to be afraid of,” she said, adding it was also an opportunity to speak about what Indigenous have experienced over generations.

  She spoke of children who were victimized in residential schools and Indigenous men and women who have gone missing. They need to be acknowledged, she said.


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